The week started with Team 3’s visit to the Gyle on Tuesday 28th March to take on Murrayfield 8 in Division 2. After their good win against Uni 3B in Week 24, Team 3 know that they can afford no slip ups as they try and finish 2nd and gain promotion to Division 1. Uni 2 sat in second place going into Week 25 a point ahead of Team 3 but with the Penicuik side having two games in hand. Julian Taylor returned after missing Week 24 as he joined James Wighton and Ian Hislop. The match could not have started any better for the visitors – Julian won Match 1 in straight sets before two vital five enders both went the way of the Penicuik side, Ian defeating Amit Kumar 11-8 in the fifth and James defeating Richard Lo 11-6 in the decider. 3-0 to the visitors and that got even better when Julian defeated Amit to make it 4-0. A five setter then went the way of the hosts as Phillipe Almichel defeated James to get the Murrayfield side on the scoreboard. When Ian defeated Richard in 4 ends, it looked plain sailing for the visitors – 5-1 up and coasting. With the doubles expert in Hannah not playing, Julian and James combined but fell in straight sets – all Julian’s fault according to James and that made it 5-2. James then fell to Amit in another five end marathon and suddenly it was 5-3. Ian was outplayed in straight sets by Phillipe but fortunately, Julian was able to secure the win with a four end victory over Richard. From 5-1 up the visitors were ultimately relieved to get over the line with a 6-4 win. That temporarily put the side back into second place, prior to Edinburgh Uni’s match on Friday night v Corstorphine when a 6-4 win for the students resulted in the positions reversing again. 1 match left for Edinburgh Uni and 3 left for Team 3.
Wednesday night saw Team 1 travel to Fife knowing that they still needed at least a point if not 2 to secure their Premier League status for another year. In the first half of the season, Greig and Colin had played a player short and just fell to a 6-4 defeat. The call for a third player on this occasion was answered by Krzysztof Laszkiewicz from Team 2. According to Fife Captain Peter Aird, Fife had been struggling to get a full side out and the interest in playing had waned to the extent that they were likely to only have two players – yeah right Peter – They played their last two away matches a player short but it was a different story for this home match – 10 players to pick from (how’s that fair!) Peter was joined by Grant Williams and Tales Yamamoto. Krys had a great opener against Grant and was 2-1 up before Grant found his form – 11-2, 11-3 in the final two ends gave the Fife team the perfect start. Greig meanwhile was involved in his own five setter against Tales – having squared the contest with an 11-7 fourth end win, he completely lost his concentration in the decider – 2-0 to Fife. Colin then faced Peter and this also went the distance – 2-1 up, Colin had match point in the fourth but lost out 13-11 before an 11-7 defeat in the fifth gave the hosts their third consecutive five end win. It got worse for the visitors as Tales defeated Krys in 3 straight sets. 4-0 down and struggling. The tide turned a little in the next two matches played simultaneously – at last the visitors came out on top in a five end match as Colin defeated Grant 11-9 in the fifth and at the same time Greig defeated Peter in four ends – 4-2. Peter played Krys out of order and before the doubles and that victory gave the hosts a 5-2 advantage but that was pulled back in the doubles - Greig and Colin lost their doubles in the first half against Fife but not on this occasion – a straight sets win and the Penicuik side were in with a chance of salvaging a draw at 5-3 down. Déjà vu with Week 24 – the last two matches were shared as Team 1 fell to another narrow 6-4 defeat, their fifth of the season. Not said it for a while but this feels like a good time to bring it back – which part of Edinburgh and Lothians is Inverkeithing in again?? Team 1 are still in all sorts of trouble, one place above the relegation zone with two games left to play.
Having avoided relegation from Division 3 with their victory in Week 24, Team 4 were in relaxed mood as they took on Herriot Watt 2 at Ladywood on Thursday night. Bob Porteous and Richard Millar were joined by Craig Linton, recovered from an injury which has meant he’s missed virtually the whole season. The students of Herriot Watt were already relegated before this match but if their number 1, Vladyslav Kapinus, had played more than half a season they would probably have been safe – he had played 30 matches before his visit to Ladywood and had won 28 of them. He was to keep that record going with another 3 victories, Craig doing best by taking an end from him. Only one other match all night went to four ends, Craig defeating Cameron Denholm 13-11 in the fourth. Team 4 don’t mess about – as Team Captain Bob pointed out their moto seemed to be win fast and lose fast! 8 matches were over in a flash by 3-0 scorelines and the home side won 6 of them – a 7-3 victory for the hosts with all three players picking up two wins, was a good finish to the season for Team 4. In the end although they diced with relegation throughout, the tightness of this division saw them finish in a group of teams on 15 points, well clear of relegation and another point could have seen them remarkably finish in fifth place on their own. The second half of the season saw them pick up double the amount of points they had done in the first half. Bob has led the side brilliantly in Craig’s absence through injury – a terrific first season for him winning 44 of his 60 matches played and the team’s fortunes were certainly improved by Richard joining the Team – he won two thirds of his 21 games played.
Team 2 were also in action at Ladywood but their match with West Lothian 2 was probably of more interest to Corstorphine than it was to them. It looks like Team 2 are not going to survive in Division 1 but at the other end of the table, Corstorphine who had led the way and been in the promotion spots since the season started, needed a favour from Penicuik to kept them in second place. Going into the match, a couple of 5-5 draws combined with a loss to league leaders Edinburgh University meant that Corstorphine had concluded their season and sat in 2nd place with 36 points and a games difference of +92. West Lothian had recruited Ben Hart from Stirlingshire for the second half of the season and he’s made a huge difference. They went into the match knowing that a win would put them level on points with Corstorphine – they started the night with a game difference of +88. The maths told them that they needed an 8-2 win or better to win the second promotion place! 7-3 and goodness knows what would happen – they’d be tied on points and games difference. With Gary McDougal on holiday, Charlie Brindley made a rare appearance this season as he joined Krzysztof Laszkiewicz and Abby Wighton. When the first three matches all went the way of the visitors in rapid fashion, this looked like being a walk in the park for the promotion chasing Bathgate side. Match 4 saw Abby take on Ben – we won’t mention the first end, but at 2-0 down she caused a little bit of anxiety by winning the third end 11-5 – she couldn’t sustain it though as she fell in four ends – 0-4. The next two matches got the WL hearts fluttering even more – Jamie Toner v Charlie and Mark Robertson v Krys – both games went the distance – the other Corstorphine side who were at Ladywood playing our fifth team would maybe have something positive to report back to their Team 1 – the fifth ends in both matches went the way of the visitors and 6-0 became 7-0 when the doubles was won in four ends by Ben and Jamie. Could the unthinkable happen and Penicuik win the last three matches? Eh no! Charlie did get on the board in match 10 but by then WL had done enough and a 9-1 victory saw them leapfrog Corstorphine and gain promotion to the Premier League. In a season where the teams played 220 games, Corstorphine lost out winning 156 compared to WL’s 158 – that’s got to hurt!
Finally on a busy night at Ladywood, Team 5 hosted top of the table Corstorphine 4 who had already secured the Division 4 title. This was always going to be a difficult match for the Club’s newest side who started the match some 20 points behind the Champions. Aidan Craig, Patrick Shanks and Sian McDonald, however, were not going to roll over. Aidan’s win in Match 1 of the night in four ends was followed by the narrowest of five end defeats for Sian – she lost out 11-9 in the decider. Match 3 saw Patrick go the distance but on this occasion the home player came out on top with a 13-11 fifth end win. Match 4 went the way of the visitors and that was followed by a loss for Aidan in Match 5 to give the visitors their first lead of the night. Patrick was getting his money’s worth as his second match also went to a fifth end decider and he triumphed again with an 11-7 victory. This topsy turvy affair was all square going into the doubles and a comfortable win for Aidan and Sian put the hosts ahead at 4-3. Sian couldn’t quite get over the line in Match 8 as she fell to a four end defeat. 4-4 going into the last two matches. Patrick played match 9 and according to NPC Brian, he seemed to be taken over by fatigue, losing quickly in 3 sets. The team surely deserved something out of this match and it was left to Aidan to produce some great table tennis to gain the team a terrific 5-5 draw against the Division 4 Champions. One match to go for Team 5 as they travel to Haddington next week.
And so, to our player of the week award. Team 4 were our best performing team this week with two wins each for all three players and a doubles victory contributing to their 7-3 win. Only one player was undefeated and that was Julian for Team 3. Julian’s three wins were obviously crucial as Team 3 sneaked over the line 6-4 to maintain their push for promotion. Julian has been in excellent form recently and with 3 matches still to go for Team 3, he is in contention to have the Club’s best individual average across the divisions. He’s got some stern competition though from Aidan and Bob. But that’s the competition for our player of the season award – there can be no doubt this week that, despite a loss in the doubles, Julian’s 3 singles took some pressure of his teammates and was pivotal in the win for Team 3 – well done to Julian.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. Team 1’s match in Fife was good fun! How can a team with ten registered players field only two out of ten – as we reported above this has happened on the last two occasions when Fife have played away from home or to put it another way when they’ve played in the Edinburgh and Lothians area! Putting that to one side, on Wednesday night we were met by a full team of three (yeah thanks Fife) and were told from when the tables were being set up that they were on a tight schedule and needed to get on with the matches. Nothing wrong with that – we are in a similar position at Ladywood. First two matches on simultaneously causes no difficulty but when one of the matches finished, the Fife team Captain effectively interrupted the ongoing match to tell Colin who was umpiring Greig v Tales that he needed to now give up his umpiring duties and he would be replaced by Grant. Really – could that not wait until the ongoing match was finished? Greig proceeded to quickly lose the fifth end and the score in the Peter v Colin match at that point was 3-3 in the first end. Hold on, as if enough disruption had not already occurred the Fife Team captain then stops playing to come over to the other table to look at who was on next – in the middle of a game –Krys, who now had the umpiring duties in the Colin v Peter game had to get up from his seat and be replaced so he could play match 4. This palaver took a few minutes to be resolved much to the irritation of the visitors and much to the annoyance of the Fife team captain who saw nothing wrong with what was going on. “That’s just the way it has to be” he screamed. The musical chairs continued through the night all on the basis that Fife would run out of time had we not done so. 5 matches completed, match 6 was going into a fifth end – hold on let’s just now play things out of order – we will miss the doubles so we can get Match 8 played! What?? Really? Not only do we have to interrupt the matches as we go we now have to play a final singles match before the doubles – now call us old fashioned but scoreboard pressure can play a part in matches like this. The doubles is often key. Greig and Colin have a good record in the doubles. But no, we’ll get another singles started at 4-1 to the hosts rather than waiting 5 minutes and then playing the doubles – had it been played in order we would have been at 4-3 playing matches 8 and 9 respectively and then 5-4 whilst playing match 10 – maybe the pressure would have been more on the hosts at that stage to secure a victory? As it was the match was finished by 9.20pm and we couldn’t resist pointing out repeatedly to our Fife hosts that we had managed to finish with plenty time “left on the clock”. Whilst we recognise that time constraints are often an issue it is ridiculous in our view to have to rush the way we did on Wednesday night – by all means play two matches at once (although we don’t like that we recognise this needs to be done for most of us) BUT don’t disrupt games and switch umpires mid game and then play out of order – even with four matches going to deciding fifth ends there was still more than half an hour left at the end of the night. There should be a rule introduced to prevent such craziness!
In a similar vein, Team 5 have a policy when they play at home of starting their matches on one table – they play the first three singles out before then moving onto two tables for the rest of the night. This is NPC Brian’s idea and we like it – his rationale is that it enables the side to see all their opponents in action before moving on to the second round of singles matches – we have a 10pm finishing time and Team 5 have never fallen foul of that. Our opponents on Thursday night were not too keen on this idea though and complained a little that the match should be on two tables from the outset – surely it's up to the home team though to decide how the matches should be played – maybe that’s something which needs clarified for next season.
The regular season over - some outstanding fixtures to be caught up on which will determine all of our outstanding promotion / relegation issues and the semi-finals and final of the Handicap Cup still to come! What fun awaits....